My Turn, Kaylee Driessen: The politicization of our education system

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 30, 2023

By Kaylee Driessen 

Education is the monkey in the middle.

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion concerning public education and what should be taught.

There has been a shift where more parents want to homeschool their children rather than have them attend public school. One reason why we are seeing this shift is that the COVID-19 pandemic brought light to the benefits of homeschooling. A second reason is parents no longer trust that public education is adequately equipped to teach their children without indoctrinating them. Their lack of trust is understandable considering the evident push of politicization in schools, such as adding critical race theory and sexual/gender identity to the curriculum. I believe that the politicization in our education systems is coming from the political divide in our country. It has made the education system its “monkey” in the middle.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, homeschooling averaged out to 3.3% in the U.S. By the end of 2020, the average increased to 11.1%. In North Carolina, it was 9.4% at the end of 2020. In 2021-2022, the percentage in North Carolina dropped to 9.39%. These figures were taken from the Census Household Pulse Survey.

The pandemic caused a notable spike in homeschooling.  When the country was suddenly in lockdown it gave the education system little time to prepare for learning outside the classroom. As a result, students and teachers had difficulty adjusting to remote learning, it created a digital divide between the teachers and students, there was a lack of social support for students, and parents were unprepared for remote learning.

Suffice it to say there was confusion, chaos, and frustration with the education system when the country was put in lockdown. For people of all demographics, homeschooling was a more promising option for their children. Thus, the notable increase.

The 2020 lockdown was not the only thing causing families to choose to homeschool over public school. In recent years there seems to be a great political divide between liberals and conservatives, especially with events such as the Black Lives Matter movement, destroying statues, Roe v. Wade being overturned, the handling of COVID-19 and vaccinations.

A study by Pew Research Center found that ideological overlap has diminished in the past two decades. In the same time frame, Americans expressing to be consistently conservative or liberal has doubled from 10% to 21%. At least 27% of both political parties see the opposing party as being a threat to the nation’s well-being. This great divide has leaked into our education systems. People on both sides are trying to get their ideology to dominate the education system in order to “raise them up right.” The people mainly partaking in this are politicians and school board members. 

Some of the most notable instances of the attempt to dominate the education system are the introduction of critical race theory and sexual/gender identity. Critical race theory is believed to mean that racism is baked into U.S. society. For liberals, this is a way of understanding how racism has shaped our society and how we should atone for it. For conservatives, it is a way of dividing people by skin color and pitting them against each other. This is an instance where the ideological overlap is needed since both are technically correct because in attempting to atone we are creating division.

Sexual/gender identity is incredibly prevalent due to the influence of the LGBTQ+ community. Integrating this into our education systems is supported by liberals due to their support of the LGBTQ+ community. Conservatives disagree with integrating this into schools because they believe if it is to be taught, it should be taught at home. Sexual identity is who a person says they are sexually attracted to. Gender identity is what gender a person says they believe to be. Conservatives oppose this being integrated into schools because they believe that there are only two genders and sex is supposed to be between a man and woman only. 

Homeschooling increased with the COVID-19 pandemic, and if the political divide becomes even more pronounced, we will likely see those numbers increase again. Parents want to protect their children and are losing trust in the education system when they decide to support one ideology over the other. The political divide  makes our education system the monkey in the middle.

Driessen is a student at Western Carolina University and will be living in Cabarrus County with her parents before moving to Rowan County in August after getting married.